News of OMearas Demise Seems Premature
But I dont believe either could have been as unexpected as Mark OMearas week in Dubai. He visited an American aircraft carrier with Tiger Woods, then teed it up against Woods, world No. 3 Ernie Els, and a host of the European Tours finest practitioners of the game. Forget that he was No. 201 in the world on Thursday. Forget that most people understood his Dubai visit was just to accompany Tiger. Forget that he was 143rd on the PGA Tour last year and had missed his last two cuts this year
OMeara has done this several times before, you know ' playing lousy for weeks, even years on end before suddenly getting serious about the game. The first was 20 years ago after he had finished 76th on the PGA Tours money list in 1983. The following year, 1984, he shot up to second.
He puttered along in the tours upper echelons for 10 years when in 1994, he slid all the way down to 86th. He then righted the ship for five years until 2000, when he went spiraling down to 112th. He was entering his early 40s, and when he didnt apply a tourniquet to stop the bleeding the last four years, it was widely assumed that he was finished.
The low point, OMeara conceded, was at the 84 Lumber tournament last year. I hit the ball probably the best for two days I've hit it at any time in my career, and I shot 4 under - and I missed the cut, he said. I putted as badly as a human being could putt with no confidence. I was trying everything. I was closing my eyes. I was watching my putter go back, just trying to take your mind and the hit out of the stroke.
But when you're doing all of those things, you're fighting a losing battle.
Some speculated that he would quit to become Tigers coach. Others said he would become a TV analyst.
Unfortunately, the competitive nature one has inside themselves to get to that level, it's hard to just all of a sudden walk away, OMeara said. I felt like I could still play. What no one figured was that he could bolt into the winners circle again.
His old bread-and-butter, though, had gone AWOL the last few years. Long regarded as one of the tours most masterful putters through most of his career, he had begun missing with regularity. He clanked down to 143rd last season. He was 47 years old now, and the only question was how ' and when - the end would finally come.
The putting malaise was a serious development. It had happened in the latter years to lots of great golfers ' Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Tom Watson, Arnold Palmer, Tom Kite now it was happening to OMeara.
OMeara, though, just might prove to be the exception. In the offseason, he ran into his old instructor, Hank Haney, and Haney had some rather strong words. 'You need a new grip,' Hany said, and he wasn't talking about the way he held the driver. He meant the putter.
So OMeara relented and tried it. And so far, it has re-invented the OMeara of old.
He had gone over the cliff with the roller over the last five years, steadily going down: from 45th in 1999 to 112th on 2000, to 116th, back up to 97th, then last year falling out of sight at 140th. But with this new grip ' he calls it The Saw ' he stands 18th on the U.S. putting rankings, and thats not even counting his win at Dubai.
I would explain it, but I have to confess I havent seen the grip and I dont understand OMearas verbal description. But The Saw has had a dramatic impact on his game. And even though he has had nagging back problems the last month, OMeara looks like he can win again in his late 40s.
If you feel like you can make the putts, it just frees up the rest of your game, OMeara said.
Granted, I'm more confident now, certainly, because I'm starting to see some results. Confidence comes from results.
Last month, putting guru Scotty Cameron had a look at Marks unconventional Saw grip. He said it's the best he's seen me stroke the ball in five or six years, OMeara said proudly.
Well, maybe this is another ageless wonder story that has become so prevalent in golf the last couple of years. After all, Woods is the only player under 30 who has won this year. And OMeara beat Woods ' and Els ' in his march through the Dubai field last week.
Do you have putting woes, watching the ball avoid the cup like it has a severe case of halitosis? Better listen to Mark OMeara.
Any of you guys or gals that have a little yip in the stroke and may not want to admit this, that's cool, I'm down with that, he said.
But you might want to try this. Trust me, it works.
Email your thoughts to George White
Vegas lists Woods at 20-1 to win a major in 2018
He hasn't hit a competitive shot in nearly a year, but that hasn't stopped one Las Vegas outlet from listing Tiger Woods among the favorites to win a major in 2018.
The Westgate Las Vegas Superbook published betting odds this week on dozens of players to win any of the four majors next year. Leading the pack were Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth at 3/2, with Rory McIlroy next. But not far behind was Woods, who has been sidelined since February because of a back injury but was listed at 20/1.
Woods will make his much-anticipated return next week at the Hero World Challenge, and next month he will turn 42. Next summer will mark the 10-year anniversary of his last major championship victory, a sudden-death playoff win over Rocco Mediate at the 2008 U.S. Open.
Here's a look at the odds for several marquee players on winning any of the four biggest events in golf next year:
3/2: Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth
5/2: Rory McIlroy
7/2: Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day
9/2: Justin Rose
5/1: Brooks Koepka
15/2: Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Paul Casey
10/1: Adam Scott
12/1: Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson, Marc Leishman, Thomas Pieters, Patrick Reed
15/1: Daniel Berger, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Patrick Cantlay, Branden Grace, Kevin Kisner, Alex Noren, Louis Oosthuizen, Xander Schauffele, Charl Schwartzel, Brandt Snedeker, Bubba Watson
20/1: Tiger Woods, Francesco Molinari, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Tony Finau, Martin Kaymer
25/1: Ryan Moore, Zach Johnson, Webb Simpson, Lee Westwood, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Chappell, Bryson DeChambeau, Bill Haas, Jason Dufner, Charley Hoffman
30/1: Pat Perez, Gary Woodland, Bernd Wiesberger, Brian Harman, Padraig Harrington, Emiliano Grillo, Ross Fisher, Si Woo Kim, J.B. Holmes
Open Qualifying Series kicks off with Aussie Open
The 147th Open is nearly eight months away, but there are still major championship berths on the line this week in Australia.
The Open Qualifying Series kicks off this week, a global stretch of 15 event across 10 different countries that will be responsible for filling 46 spots in next year's field at Carnoustie. The Emirates Australian Open is the first event in the series, and the top three players among the top 10 who are not otherwise exempt will punch their tickets to Scotland.
In addition to tournament qualifying opportunities, the R&A will also conduct four final qualifying events across Great Britain and Ireland on July 3, where three spots will be available at each site.
Here's a look at the full roster of tournaments where Open berths will be awarded:
Emirates Australian Open (Nov. 23-26): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties
Joburg Open (Dec. 7-10): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties
SMBC Singapore Open (Jan. 18-21): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties
Mizuno Open (May 24-27): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties
HNA Open de France (June 28-July 1): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties
The National (June 28-July 1): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties
Dubai Duty Free Irish Open (July 5-8): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties
The Greenbrier Classic (July 5-8): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties
Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open (July 12-15): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties
John Deere Classic (July 12-15): Top player (not otherwise exempt) among top five and ties
Stock Watch: Lexi, Justin rose or fall this week?
Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.
Jon Rahm (+9%): Just imagine how good he’ll be in the next few years, when he isn’t playing all of these courses for the first time. With no weaknesses in his game, he’s poised for an even bigger 2018.
Austin Cook (+7%): From Monday qualifiers to Q-School to close calls on the Web.com, it hasn’t been an easy road to the big leagues. Well, he would have fooled us, because it looked awfully easy as the rookie cruised to a win in just his 14th Tour start.
Ariya (+6%): Her physical tools are as impressive as any on the LPGA, and if she can shore up her mental game – she crumbled upon reaching world No. 1 – then she’ll become the world-beater we always believed she could be.
Tommy Fleetwood (+4%): He ran out of gas in Dubai, but no one played better on the European Tour this year than Fleetwood, Europe’s new No. 1, who has risen from 99th to 18th in the world.
Lexi (+1%): She has one million reasons to be pleased with her performance this year … but golf fans are more likely to remember the six runners-up and two careless mistakes (sloppy marking at the ANA and then a yippy 2-footer in the season finale) that cost her a truly spectacular season.
J-Rose (-1%): Another high finish in Dubai, but his back-nine 38, after surging into the lead, was shocking. It cost him not just the tournament title, but also the season-long race.
Hideki (-2%): After getting blown out at the Dunlop Phoenix, he made headlines by saying there’s a “huge gap” between he and winner Brooks Koepka. Maybe something was lost in translation, but Matsuyama being too hard on himself has been a familiar storyline the second half of the year. For his sake, here’s hoping he loosens up.
Golf-ball showdown (-3%): Recent comments by big-name stars and Mike Davis’ latest salvo about the need for a reduced-flight ball could set up a nasty battle between golf’s governing bodies and manufacturers.
DL3 (-4%): Boy, the 53-year-old is getting a little too good at rehab – in recent years, he has overcome a neck fusion, foot injury, broken collarbone and displaced thumb. Up next is hip-replacement surgery.
LPGA Player of the Year (-5%): Sung Hyun Park and So Yeon Ryu tied for the LPGA’s biggest prize, with 162 points. How is there not a tiebreaker in place, whether it’s scoring average or best major performance? Talk about a buzzkill.
Titleist's Uihlein fires back at Davis over distance
Consider Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein unmoved by Mike Davis' comments about the evolution of the golf ball – and unhappy.
In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, the outlet which first published Davis' comments on Sunday, Uihlein took aim at the idea that golf ball distance gains are hurting the sport by providing an additional financial burden to courses.
"Is there any evidence to support this canard … the trickle-down cost argument?” he wrote (via Golf.com). “Where is the evidence to support the argument that golf course operating costs nationwide are being escalated due to advances in equipment technology?"
Pointing the blame elsewhere, Uihlein criticized the choices and motivations of modern architects.
"The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate," he wrote.
The Titleist CEO even went as far as to suggest that Tiger Woods' recent comments that "we need to do something about the golf ball" were motivated by the business interersts of Woods' ball sponsor, Bridgestone.
"Given Bridgestone’s very small worldwide market share and paltry presence in professional golf, it would seem logical they would have a commercial motive making the case for a reduced distance golf ball," he added.
Acushnet Holdings, Titleist's parent company, announced in September that Uihlein would be stepping down as the company's CEO at the end of this year but that he will remain on the company's board of directors.